The Figment Review: Pieces of Us by Margie Gelbwasser

Katie has everything: a hot boyfriend, the best position on the cheer squad, a close relationship with her mother, and, to top it all off, she’s pretty. Katie’s sister Julie—chubby and unattractive by comparison—has long struggled with her apparent sibling inferiority. But then Katie’s perfection suddenly crumbles, and nobody knows why.

A few states over, Alex is facing his own demons, including the succubus-like girls who constantly throw themselves at him and his failed efforts to toughen up his brother, Kyle. With their father dead and their mother in a particularly unsavoury job, neither Alex nor Kyle feel they have much to lose in life–though not much to gain, either.

Each summer, all four gather at their respective grandparents’ neighboring lake houses, weaving together the four narratives from two states into one story.

I knew that I was in for a steaming pile of darkness and disturbed characters before I started reading, but with this as a starting impression, the turn-out was disappointing. Almost every character felt like a paper doll cut-out; a stereotype of an extreme, rather than a real person. Katie, Alex, Julie, and Kyle all change, but they flow from stereotype to stereotype, only occasionally gaining some depth. The various characters’ evolutions struck me as being well-planned and well-executed, but given that they were never convincing characters, the evolutions ultimately fell flat.

To keep the story moving through two states and four characters, each of the main characters serves as a narrator for sections of the novel. While most of the book is in plain first-person prose, Kyle’s sections are narrated in second person (almost always a bit gimmicky, I find) and Katie will randomly break into verse. These sorts of creative narrations can work well depending on the book (case in point: everything Ellen
Hopkins has ever written and easily half of David Levithan’s novels), but here the out-of-the-box sections clash with the rest of the narration. I found the narration style in Pieces of Us distracting and annoying.

But while Pieces of Us isn’t my cup of tea, if you’re in the market for a steamy read chock full of drama, you might want to look here.

Kat Alexander is a Figment Reviewer who (clearly) loves to read and comment. She’s active on a number of sites including NaNo, Fiction Press, and FanFiction under aneko24.

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